Snorkel in the clearest of waters in the Red Sea
The seaport town of Aqaba sits at the southernmost point of Jordan and is home to one of the best snorkelling and diving coastlines in the world, with many centres and professional instructors catering to these sports. You can revel in captivating sea reef colours and the incredible biodiversity, complete with approximately 130 species of coral and hundreds of species of fish and other animals.
Just be aware that if you are flying out of Aqaba, it is recommended that you wait at least 18 hours post-diving so that your body can adjust before heading up to very high altitudes. If you’re heading to the Dead Sea after Aqaba, then that needn’t be a worry as it’s the lowest point in the whole world.
The desert life experience
Ever wondered where Matt Damon grew those potatoes in The Martian? Welcome to Wadi Rum. Located in the South of Jordan, the Wadi Rum desert offers many a breathtaking desert landscape. It’s no wonder that so many blockbuster films have shot footage in this vast Jordanian desert, including other hits such as Transformers and, of course, Lawrence of Arabia. A newly opened camp in Wadi Rum even enables you to experience ‘life on Mars’ with an overnight stay in a spaceship-like dome built into the sand.
Another unique adventure you can enjoy whilst you are camping in the desert is a cultural immersion with the Bedouins of the south. Your chosen camp hosts will collect you from Rum Village and take you deep into the desert where you can enjoy rock climbing, camel riding and sand dune running. In the evening, you will be cooked a wonderful traditional meal, sit around the campfire and sip on a bottomless cup of sweet tea. Depending on which camp you stay at, some hosts will play traditional Bedouin music as the stars come out and peace transcends on the desert.
Food, glorious food
One of the things Jordanians are most proud of is their traditional Jordanian cuisine. One local dish that is specific to the country and a real must-try is Mansaf – a rice-based dish served with chicken or lamb and accompanied by a yoghurt sauce called Jameed. Expect this dish as a guest at almost every special occasion in Jordan.
Another dish exclusive to the country and different from anything else you’ve tried is Zarb, a chicken and vegetable dish cooked in the ground. It is one of the most delicious meals you will ever taste.
Jordan is blessed with an incredibly rich religious history. Christians, Muslims and Jews all regard the area around the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea as sacred. The Bible even refers to this land as ‘The Garden of the Lord’, making the religious and historical sites located on it a must-see for visitors.
Jordan is a Muslim-majority country, and some important Islamic sites include the tombs of many of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PHUH), including Ja’far bin Abi Taleb and Zeid ibn al-Haritha.
The kingdom is also home to one of the oldest living Christian communities, as well as sites such as the Bethany Beyond the Jordan – where Jesus was baptised. There are also many beautiful churches dotted around the country, including the St George Church in Madaba where you can see the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land.
The smallest hotel in the world
Located in the area of Shobak lies the world’s smallest hotel. This tiny four-wheel hotel is actually an old car decked out with comfortable mattresses and blankets and will sleep two cosily!
Bathe in the mountains under natural hot springs
The word ‘Hammam’ in Arabic refers to a communal bathhouse, but Hammamat Ma’in is really something special. Also known as Ma’in hot springs, these natural hot water springs sit between the mountains in Wadi Zarqa Ma’in.
Mineral rich water pours from the rocks at temperatures ranging from 45–60° Celsius (113–140°F) and collects in natural pools that are perfect for bathing and relaxing.
Unique Levantine views from Umm Qais
The Roman ruins of Umm Qais were once known as the city of Gadara and served as a cultural centre home to many poets and philosophers over 2,000 years ago.
As well as the historical significance, Umm Qais sits high in the mountains, and from atop, you can simultaneously look down on Lebanon, Syria and Palestine all in one glance. The best time to go is a couple of hours before sunset so that you can enjoy the extraordinary sunset views.